The Man of Ash

The Man of Ash

A Story by 0AudreyClaire0

The man was no longer broken. He was no longer grieving. He was the man of ash.


The sun bores down on the man, pressing and shoving against his chest. It sits high in the afternoon sky. Its rays reaching down to the earth with burning fingers. Even with the heat, the man could not stop. His must ride, flee, escape. His black stallion heaves and pushes its self harder as the man presses the spurs of his boot against its side. 


The approaching canyon will provide no protection in this barren desert. The man risks a glance behind him and immediately regrets it. He shouts at his horse, urging it to move faster. The pounding of hoves on the orange ground beneath fills the man's ears, a never ending sound that grows louder with each stride. The man, with his keen eyes, sweeps the landscape. Cactus and tumbleweeds litter the dry land. The only rise in it is the tall canyon ahead. Its orange rock walls cast shadows, blocking the burning sun. He shouts again at his horse. He knows it's only a matter of time before it callapses but stopping now is not an option for the man. He can hear the yelling and screaming behind him from his pursuers. The men with the ragged beards and cowboy hats. Rotting teeth from alcohol and tobacco. Pistols placed at their sides, itching to fire. A few already have but the man got enough of a lead to avoid the impeccable aim of the men. If he had left a minute later, he would be dead for sure. Sweat falls into the man's eyes. His heart beating so fast it hurts.


Why my family? The man shouts in his mind. There's no threat of tears. Hes cried his last tear long again, but that doesn't stop the pain.


The canyon is in front of him now. Its mouth open wind, willing the man to enter. For a moment the man can't see. His eyes adjust to the dark and he squints to make out the shapes surrounding him. How strange, the man thinks, that a shadow can create such an ominous darkness. He continues to ride, despite the surrounding shadows. A thought enters the mans mind that hasn't before. As he rides, he lets out a nervous chuckle to himself out of glee. Why had he not thought of this before? It was brilliant! There was nothing more for him here anyway. His family was murdered, though he still did not know why. His heart aches at the thought and his rage for the killer returns.


He had got his revenge though. A bullet through the head at the saloon, just this afternoon. He had been planning it for years. And oh how well it turned out. Until the men, the killer's group of friends, pulled out their pistols. The poker table they sat at had tipped from their sudden jump from the table after that fateful bullet left the gun. Poker chips had scattered across the floor. The man was already on his horse, heading out to the planes. Not long after, the group of men were following. Up until this point the man had been fearing for his life. He had got his revenge and the crazed joy had quickly shattered. So, here he rides, his coal black horse weazing with each pounding of its hoof. Why should he fear? This is fate! He could join his wife. His daughter, only three, innocent in every way possible.


The bright light of the sun scorches down on the man and his horse as they emerge from the canyon. The group still pursues. Their hollering echos off the walls of the caynon. More rock, orange as the sunset, is lying around the exit of the canyon. He jerks on the reins. The horse slows and skids to a stop by one of the rocks. It stands taller than the man and his horse. The shouting behind them grows louder.


He turns his horse around to see the caravan of horse racing forward. The anger in the men's eyes is prominent. They pull their pistols out of their holsters and fire then into the air as they aprouch. The man's horse stands on its hind legs in protest. Its screeches tearing through the air. Before he can stop himself he slides off the horse. He lands on his back causing the air to rush fron his lungs. He squints at the sun boring down on him and raises a hand to shield his eyes.


The caravan is on him now. They stop and jump from their horses. The man pushes himself against the orange rock. But what does he have to be afraid of? He will be with his family soon. The joy the thought brings to the man encourages him to sit straighter. The men surround him, pistols raised to his head. Their teeth bared. They snarl at him while some spit on his clothing. The man laughs. Hes never been happier, he can be free.


He closes his eyes in delight. Images of his wife, her smile that was so bright and warm and is no longer. Her golden hair as it fell in ringlets around her shoulders. Her hand placed in his. He thinks of his daughter. Her giggle when he tickled her. The smile that so reminded him of her mother's; gorgeous. He sighs in content before looking back at the men. They look confused at his calm state but quickly c**k their guns. He nods his goodbye as a hysterical laugh escapes his lips. He sits there, laughing and smileing as the men exchange glances. Then something unexpected happens. The men gasp and stumble back at the sight before them. The spot where the man once sat, laughing and smiling, sits a pile of ash. He had turned to ash in a second. It burst from his chest before it fell to the ground. He was gone. 


The men stood, unable to move their now stone limbs. A breeze, slight and sweet, blows over the canyon and over the rocks. The ash picks up from the ground, twirling around in the air. Its carried off, away from the persuers, away from the desert and burning sun. The man was no longer broken. He was no longer grieving. He was the man of ash.

© 2012 0AudreyClaire0

Author's Note

Tell me what you think, please! I love constructive critism. :)

My Review

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Number one: Caravans have wagons in them. A group of men riding horses would be a posse. Or a group. But not a caravan.
Number two: There is a bit of verb confusion going on. Like when you describe the sun as "boring" down on the man. Suns don't bore. Drills bore. Heat from the sun beats down on people. But it doesn't bore. The flow and pace of the story was okay, but I still found it difficult to read. I figured out why about halfway through the story. Your descriptions are unwieldy. Don't get me wrong, they're nice descriptions, but it's sort of like you have description Tourettes. You use words that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but it’s there for everything. And the Orange! So much orange. So much….
In all, a good story but with sloppy execution. Nothing a good round of editing can’t fix!  Keep on writing.

Posted 11 Years Ago

nice and i like the flow of this story.

Posted 12 Years Ago

First, there are several typos that should be addressed (It's ok though, I'm fluent in typoese). You have an excellent concept here that needs a bit more development. Writing in the present tense can seem stilted and distracting. You should consider changing to past tense. I love love the emotional impact of this piece. Grief and loss can be so hard to portray. My only wish is that there was more show and less tell. Show us how uncomfortable the heat is. Perhaps the pounding of the hooves is kicking up dust which adheres to the sweat on his skin, etc. All in all, I'm impressed with the concept. Thanks for sharing it. :-)

Posted 12 Years Ago

I thought that was really good. I like the description of the ride brought the cayon evoking images of coy bow movies and death valley. I like the description of the suns burning fingers. Again the tale told of his family's tragic demise works well. The stand off at the end was brilliant and his insanity was realistic and entertaining. If I'v got any complaints it would be, make it longer :)

Posted 12 Years Ago

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4 Reviews
Added on May 9, 2012
Last Updated on June 9, 2012
Tags: Murder, hate, love, horses, western, money, thriller, suspense, mystery, scary, death, revenge, lies, ash, grief